May 17, 2022

Worth the Wait: Three Classes Honored at This Spring’s 95th Annual Commencement

THE BANNERS ARE READY: The banner carriers of the university's seven schools and divisions line up before the 95th Annual Commencement ceremony gets underway.

The Claremont Graduate University community gathered Saturday to celebrate its 95th Annual Commencement, which was the first time that an in-person ceremony has been held on campus since 2019.

CGU President Len Jessup warmly greeted the audience and complimented the graduates on their resiliency and determination to complete their degrees during a global pandemic.

“Graduate school is hard enough as it is, but a public health crisis too?” he said to the graduates.

Celebrating CGU’s first in-person ceremony in three years.

The university invited back members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 to participate in this spring’s ceremony along with the Class of 2022.

County public health guidelines in 2020 and 2021 had prohibited holding in-person ceremonies at the time, and CGU — like many other institutions of higher education — provided an online commencement celebration as an alternative.

Sea of mortar boards: CGU President Len Jessup addresses this year’s graduates at the start of the 95th annual ceremony.

Jessup said he was glad to welcome back many of these students because they “missed out on having the experience of an in-person ceremony and really deserve one.”

More than 550 doctoral and master’s degrees were conferred during the three-hour ceremony, which was held on the Mudd Quadrangle on the north lawn of Honnold-Mudd Library.

Celebrating three classes: The Classes of 2022, 2021, and 2020 gathered for the 95th Commencement ceremony.

An honorary doctoral degree was conferred upon Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States (and this year’s keynote commencement speaker).

A special posthumous doctoral degree was conferred upon Marshall Vallelunga, a master’s recipient and doctoral student in the Center for Information Systems & Technology (CISAT) who died in December. His widow Nina received the degree in his honor from Jessup and Terry Ryan, CISAT interim director. Later, during the master’s degree conferral part of the ceremony, Vallelunga’s daughter Diana received her father’s master’s degree certificate on his behalf.

Even though this year’s commencement was a time to celebrate in person, technology still played an important part for some students.

Ten students who couldn’t attend in person joined the ceremony via Zoom, while doctoral math student Daniel Akech attended on Zoom to receive this year’s Pamela M. Mullin Dream & Believe Award.

Long-distance attendee: Mathematics doctoral student Daniel Akech, recipient of the 2022 Pamela M. Mullin Dream & Believe Award

That annual award provides a generous stipend to a continuing doctoral student. Akech is the first student from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS) to receive the award since it was established 20 years ago.

He was praised by IMS Director Ali Nadim for his optimism and determination to leave a refugee camp in Kenya — where he lived as one of the Sudan’s “lost boys” — and excel as a scholar and writer dedicated to helping other refugees.

Near the ceremony’s end, in her address to the graduates, Alumni Association President Zenobia Wallji welcomed the graduates as the newest members of CGU’s 23,000-member community.

She exhorted them to leverage their connections at CGU to help them achieve their goals as well as support their alma mater in the future.


Despite warm weather and a lengthier-than-usual conferral ceremony, spirits remained high and festive throughout the event, as the following photos suggest.


Newly hooded: Dr. Carlos Echeverria-Estrada, an interfield student earning a PhD from DBOS in Evaluation and DPE in Policy, received his hood from Professors Yi Feng and Heather Campbell.
Pure joy: Samara Suafoa, a previous recipient of the Dream & Believe Award, rejoiced upon receiving her doctoral degree in Education (pictured with SES Dean DeLacy Ganley, right, and SES faculty member David Drew, far left).
New graduates: Members of the School of Community & Global Health proudly display their degree certificates at the end of the conferral ceremony.
Crucial support: During his remarks, CGU President Len Jessup singled out the many families and loved ones who supported the students on their graduate school journey.
Carrying the flame forward: Students celebrate before heading off to receptions hosted by their specific schools and divisions.